By Lenny Roberts
A driver’s license checkpoint on West Ojai Avenue Thursday morning resulted in 19 citations — eight of which were issued to motorists who were driving without or on suspended licenses.
The other 11 citations were issued to people for either not having a license in possession or for incorrect classification. Those cited for not having valid licenses or driving while suspended had their cars towed and face steep recovery fees.
Senior Deputy Jim Popp, Ojai’s traffic enforcement and accident investigation officer, said a total of 542 vehicles were stopped between 9 and 11 a.m. in front of the old Ford dealership. A large road sign provided by the Oxnard Police Department and set up by the Ojai Department of Public Works was placed between El Paseo Road and the actual checkpoint stating “Driver’s License Checkpoint Ahead.”
The purpose of the exercise, according to Senior Deputy Jim Kenney, one of three motorcycle officers from the Thousand Oaks Police Department assigned to the detail, was to ensure safety.
Kenney explained there is not probable cause required to stop people when staging a driver’s license checkpoint. Further, law enforcement agencies often do, but are not required to provide advance notice of checkpoints to the public via the media.
“The California Vehicle Code requires that anyone operating a motor vehicle on a public highway have a driver’s license,” Kenney said. “During a DUI checkpoint, we try to establish a probable cause.”
Ojai Police Department Administrative Sgt. Maureen Hookstra said statistically, checkpoints of this kind help ensure traffic safety by getting unlicensed people off the roads.
At least one valley resident voiced opposition to being stopped. Entering the city, Jennifer Guernsey was stopped and asked to present her license. When she refused and asked why, it was explained that probable cause was not needed. She argued if announcements were made for DUI checkpoints, prior notification should be made for license checkpoints. “It’s a way to get illegal aliens,” Guernsey said angrily. “They were very condescending and I didn’t appreciate that. The whole process is unconstitutional and a waste of taxpayers’ money when we have all these crimes like drugs.”
Kenney was pleased with the outcome of Thursday’s checkpoint, but did not know if future checkpoints were planned within the city. “This would be considered a success based on the number of cars checked and the people cited,” he said.
By Lenny Roberts